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Southwest men beat Meridian

MERIDIAN – The Bears remained thick in the hunt for a spot in the upcoming MACJC State Tournament with a close 77-73 road win over the Meridian Eagles Thursday night.

The win moved the Bears to 11-7 overall and, at 6-4, into a tie with East Central for third place in the South Division. Meridian dropped to 5-14 and 1-9.

Lafayette Rutledge nailed a three pointer to give the Bears an early 3-2 lead in the game. Bryce Baker’s two jumpers, one being a three pointer, then put the Bears up 14-8 with 15:52 left in the half.

Emanuel Thompson scored for the Bears to make the score 21-16 with 12:18 on the clock. Terrell Miller then scored seven straight points to push the Bears out to a 28-18 advantage with 9:46 on the clock.

Seven straight points from James Hawthorne gave the Bears their biggest lead of the night, 38-25, with 6:25 before the break. The teams traded baskets the rest of the half before Meridian’s Denarrius Gray drilled a three pointer, with 0:07 showing, to leave the Bears with a 47-38 halftime lead.

Meridian outscored the Bears 8-4 to open the second half and pull to within five points, 51-46, with 15:53 left in the game. But, a Guy Johnson three pointer helped the Bears outscore their hosts 12-5 over the next 3:51 to stretch their lead back to double digits, 63-51, with 12:01 on the clock.

An 8-0 Meridian run narrowed the gap to 63-59 with 9:45 to play. But, a three pointer from Baker helped the Bears score seven of the next nine points to pull back to a nine-point, 70-61, lead with 5:24 left.

The Bears held a 72-62 lead before Meridian made it 72-68 with 0:56 still to play. Thompson then sealed the deal with a layup that made the score 77-70 with 0:08 to play. Gray’s three pointer with 0:03 on the clock was too little, too late for Meridian as the Bears held on for the four-point victory.

“This win was extremely important,” said Bears head coach Thomas Gray, “not only for the playoff race, but importantly, seeing how these guys responded to probably our worst game of the season Monday night against Hinds (a 72-60 loss).”

“It was a positive thing to see the way our guys responded in a very tough environment,” Gray concluded. “Meridian’s always a tough place to play.”

Miller had a double-double, with 18 points and 13 rebounds, to lead the Bears’ offense. Rutledge scored 15 points while Thompson added 13 and Baker picked up 10. The Bears were 13-17 from the free throw line.

Ken’ Darrius Hamilton topped Meridian with 18 points. The Eagles made 13 of 21 free throws.

The Bears return to the court Monday night with a “Pink Game”, to help raise awareness of breast cancer, against the Mississippi Gulf Coast Bulldogs Monday night at 7:15. Fans attending the game are asked to wear pink.